Q. Shalom Rav Bartfeld Shlita: One of the most contentious issues among Bnai Noach involves the observance of Shabbos. They are hearing extremely different views from various teachers. Some hear that they absolutely have to work on Saturday and are not allowed to take even one day off from working. On the other hand, some rabbis (basing themselves upon Biur Halacha 304) claim that a Ben Noach who has accepted the seven laws before a Beit Din is actually required to observe Shabbos like a Yid.
My question is to what degree may Bnai Noach (to be clear, not seeking Giyur) observe Shabbos?
Until now, I have been advising people that while they may not fully observe Shabbos as a Jew would in terms of avoiding melacha, it is probably OK for them to honor the Shabbos. This would mean that they could have special meals, light candles, dedicate more time for prayer and study, enjoying the company of friends, enjoying nature. etc.
So my first question is: Is that an acceptable m’halech for Bnai Noach?
A. On question 112 and 2741 we mentioned two Biblical reasons for prohibiting a Gentile keeping Shabbos. ‘Firstly, the Talmud (Sanhedrin 58b) quotes as a source the verse (Bereishis 8,22): “Day and night they shall not cease (work)”. A second reason is found in the Midrash (Devarim ch. 1,23) that cites the verse; “Between me and Bnai Isroel, (Shabbos) is a sign forever” (Shemos 31,17). See also Talmud Beitzah 16a.’
Rabina (Sanhedrin ibid.) maintains that they are not allowed to rest any other day of the week.
Rambam (H. Melachim 10: 9) rules accordingly. He adds that the death penalty is not given by the Beis Din, however, they do exact other punishments. Rambam seems to opine that the reason for the severe punishment is due that he is seen as trying to create a new religion. The above would explain why other days of the week are included.
There are a number of other reasons given to why Shabbos does not apply to them. Some of them are:
1) Keddushas Levi explains that the nations would understand Hashem’s existence from the incredible acts, wisdom and science needed for the Creation of the Universe. While the Jewish Nation see Him even in His actual acts of running the world. At times they seem very difficult to comprehend, such as all the wrongs and suffering, sickness, tragedies etc.. We actually survived with our belief in Him all persecutions, pogroms and even the Holocaust. Shabbos is above Creation.
2) Bas Ayin (Lech Lecha), mentions that our Sages teach (Brochos 7b) that Avraham Avinu was the first to call Hashem ‘Adon’ or the Sole Universal Master, negating all his own personal will, mind and desires. He completely subdued and annulled all of them, and replaced them with Hashem’s will. Shabbos, the rest day, symbolizes the above.
3) Siach Sarfei Kodesh asserts that Shabbos represents a total and continuous holiness and devotion to Hashem, without any interruption at all, day and night. He paraphrases it in the verse “Mechaleleha Mos Yumas,” the one who desecrates Shabbos will die. The word ‘Chalal’ implies a vacuum or empty space.
4) Bnei Yisosschor opines that Shabbos is Hashem’s scepter. Only a son is permitted to hold the scepter of the father king.
Your suggestion that if they just have special meals, light candles, dedicate more time for prayer and study, enjoying the company of friends, enjoying nature. etc., but do not keep anything else of the many and complicated Halachos of Shabbos, would exonerate them from the penalty of keeping Shabbos, is correct. (See next questions).
Rabbi A. Bartfeld as advised by Horav Shlomo Miller and Horav Aharon Miller Shlit’a